Research programme

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At the beginning of the work of the Research Group in 2012, we focused on the monuments that had been erected in Berlin after 1989 in memory of National Socialism and commemorating its victims. Our aim was to decode the historical and memory agendas that are inscribed in the monuments and that enable us to read off the way in which the actors concerned have responded to National-Socialist history. Two studies have been published on these matters. The first compares the five ‘national’ monuments commemorating victim groups of the Nazi regime that were erected in Berlin between 1989 and 2014. The second discusses Helmut Kohl’s motives in supporting the so-called Holocaust Memorial project.

Since 2017 the Research Group has spent its time exploring the historical narratives of the Federal Chancellors in an attempt to answer the question: what do they tell us about National Socialism and the German people’s role under National Socialism? Underlying this is the observation that ultimately it was the Chancellors who were the critical actors in determining the memory policies of the Federal Republic. Their statements had authority and went a long way towards shaping the broader public’s understanding of history. Against the background of debates within society, scholarly discourse, electoral opportunities and foreign-policy interests, they defined what might be deemed representative of the Federal Republic amidst a plethora of controversial historical themes. In its work  the Research Group is concentrating on the Federal Chancellors whose influence on the memory politics and the historically grounded political views of the Federal Republic was crucial and who helped to shape them in ways that were exemplary in their day: Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl. An initial study of Adenauer has been published. The Research Group is currently investigating Brandt’s narrative of the past.